It’s been a very busy week for an organization I’ve been proud to be a part of for many years. If you weren’t aware, World Vision (the premier Christian global aid organization) updated it’s staff policy this week to include legal same-sex marriage. The policy which required employees to remain celibate while single and faithful in marriage, would now include those in non traditional relationships. Without a doubt this was a landmark decision for those in the LGBTQ community. In a letter to staff earlier in the week, president Richard Stearns explained:
“Since World Vision is a multi-denominational organization that welcomes employees from more than 50 denominations, and since a number of these denominations in recent years have sanctioned same-sex marriage for Christians, the board—in keeping with our practice of deferring to church authority in the lives of our staff, and desiring to treat all of our employees equally… As World Vision employees, we are first and foremost united in our response to Jesus’ call to follow Him and to serve the poor. This unity gives us space to acknowledge a range of views on issues among the Christian churches we attend and the denominations we represent.”
Then came the backlash. Fast and furious as only Christians can do; and 48 hours later the policy was reversed. A statement was released and a chorus of Christian voices raised up in triumph. The same chorus of people who remarkably were silent for all the years that Fred Phelps spewed hate and bigotry. This is the climax of Christian hypocrisy and I’m tired of it. I’ve stood at dozens of World Vision events, poured hours of my personal time into promoting child sponsorship, simply to watch fat, lazy, rich Christians walk as far away from the sponsorship table as possible, avoiding eye contact on their way to get another super gulp soda and a band t-shirt. I have argued with people at churches who feel that I’m not supporting the right agency as I ask them to save the life of a child in poverty. These people would rather let a child die than help.
Let me be clear, this isn’t just about homosexuality. That’s just the tip of the iceberg in my opinion. I’m standing here looking at the life I have devoted to spreading the gospel and changing lives, and wondering “what’s the point”. No good deed goes unpunished. I’ve been a Christian my entire life and I’m starting to understand why so many have left the church. To put so much into something you love and believe in, simply wanting to share the life changing power of following Jesus, only to see it washed away in a sea of one sided judgment. It breaks my heart. There is no love, no acceptance, no “place for ALL sinners” to find rest.
I’ve been a youth minister for 10 years and have watched over and over as those youth grow to adults and leave the church because they don’t feel the love and acceptance of Jesus through the fellowship of believers that was promised to them. I sit on the boards and committees that wring their hands over the future of our church, but are unwilling to make the changes necessary to fix it. Just last week I had a student tell me “I believe in God, Jesus, and the Bible, but not religion or the church”. I wept knowing that as soon as she’s too old for my youth group, she will leave the church. It leaves me disillusioned and wanting nothing to do with it. Over and over again I see Christians shutting out those around them from experiencing community. We deny atheists the opportunity to help serve thanksgiving meals and now we are denying those whose lifestyle is different to answer the call to serve in missions. The hospital metaphor of the church died years ago. It’s been replaced with the country club; only the right people get in.
I’ve lost friends and family because of the church. And now I see it affecting lives I will never meet in this world. Children who suffer for no reason. We cannot be a part of the silent majority any longer. Let a greater, wiser power than ourselves sort out who’s saved and who’s not. If we believe that all things work together for good and that God is in control, why can’t we trust God in this matter as well? Why can’t the church be a place to love and accept anyone who wishes to place their burden at the foot of the cross? Another one of my students a few weeks ago screamed at me “why does it matter? Why can’t we just love Jesus and love other people like the Bible tells us to?”
Had Jesus followed the model of today’s Christians our gospel would look very different. He wouldn’t have talked to a Samaritan woman by a well. He wouldn’t have healed a Roman captain’s daughter. He wouldn’t have stopped Pharisees from stoning a prostitute. He wouldn’t have touched a leper. And he most likely wouldn’t have died on a cross for all the worthless sinners that would ever walk on the face of the earth.
I believe World Vision made the right decision to change it’s policy both times. I say this because Rich Stearns’ book “The Hole in Our Gospel” is one of the books that altered how I view my faith. It opened my eyes take a less selfish view of my faith. One where I can’t sit in a pew and consume worship. I must feed the hungry, clothe the naked, and visit those in prison as much as I must love my enemy and take the gospel into all the world. Yes, World Vision is a Christian organization focused on the biblical call to minister to the world around us. But as Rich Stearns explained, the decision wasn’t a statement about homosexuality, but about the love and acceptance of Jesus to the individuals who wish to help change the lives of children around the world. In the end, they put the lives of children first. Choosing one group over another shouldn’t have happened, but it did. This will have long term ramifications for a generation who is already struggling with religion.
I got involved with World Vision because I firmly believed in what they were doing. The lives they changed and saved. I saw the faces of my own two children in every packet on every World Vision table I’ve ever seen. Age, race, sex, politics, economics, none of it should matter when it comes to saving the lives of children. I minister to teens for the same reason. I will continue to support my church and World Vision because I believe that my life has a higher purpose. I believe God has called me to make a difference and help lead my church into change. I believe God placed me here to be a servant; to share His love, grace, and mercy with all those who need it. To listen when someone has problems, to put an arm around someone who’s heart is breaking, and to do what I can to help children all over the world experience Jesus’ kingdom on earth. I would hope that you would share that vision and leave admission into eternity up to someone else.